CARSON, Calif. – With Leonardo ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, the LA Galaxy suddenly have a gaping hole to fill at center back.
One of the first to offer to step in was Sean Franklin. Although normally a fixture on the right flank, Franklin said he was more than willing to slide into central defense in order to help the team.
“I’m just looking to be a positive asset for the team at any position where I can help,” Franklin said. “Whoever is going to fill that role is going to do fine on Saturday.”
In his second season with the Galaxy, Leonardo had become a stalwart on the back line. He was one of just two players to have played every minute of every game this season and a strong partnership with Omar Gonzalez seemed to be forming.
Leonardo’s rise was in a bit of a contrast to last season, when LA coach Bruce Arena had a revolving door of center backs after Gregg Berhalter was injured in August.
“Losing Leo is big for the team,” Franklin said. “He’s a great, young defender and losing someone like him kind of hurts our team. We feel for him and wish him a speedy recovery.”
No matter how important of a player Leonardo was to the Galaxy, the personnel is there to fill the hole, whether it’s Franklin or someone else.
“The next guy is going to have to step up and fill that role whether if Gregg gets healthy and comes back, or if I have to start in there or A.J. [DeLaGarza],” Franklin said. “The next person is going to be willing and ready to step up for Leo.”
All three have experience at center back for the Galaxy. Berhalter added instant stability when he joined the team in 2009, stepping into a starting spot and helping the team turn things around as LA eventually reached MLS Cup.
DeLaGarza, a central defender throughout his career, played a few games at center back during the regular season last year and started there in each of the Galaxy’s three MLS Cup Playoffs games.
Franklin, meanwhile, was named MLS Rookie of the Year in 2008, when he played mostly at central defense. Franklin has played at right back and right midfield this season, and played central defense at times during the preseason.
Despite the change of positions, Franklin says he sees himself as a defender but isn’t tied down to the spot.
“I still consider myself a defender,” he said. “At times I have played in the midfield. This last trip I played all in the midfield, a little bit at right back this last game but wherever I’m called upon I’ll fill that role, whether it’s center back, right back, right mid.”